Perfectionism kills creativity

Perfectionism Killed my Creativity

I did too much. And I did nothing. This is the story of how being a perfectionist got me stuck. (Photo by John T on Unsplash)

Failure is an opportunity for learning—about inaccurate pictures of current reality, about strategies that didn’t work as expected, about the clarity of the vision.

The Fifth Discipline, Peter M. Senge

Writing every day is my most powerful creative tool.

Every day? You could ask.

How come you are writing every day and you publish on your blog every week? You could add.

And how come your latest article was in April? We’re almost in June. You could infer.

Yeah, I have excuses. So many I could fill you with them.

I wouldn’t even need all of my excuses, I could just mention the pandemic.

You know, that insignificant event taking over the world, recently?

But the truth is another.

Perfectionism.

This killed my publishing schedule.

While, when I write in my personal diary, I flow like oil. I can write from 1’000 to 5’000 words per hour. I’ve reached 250 days of continuous writing for 350’000 words. I can go on and on. I frequently reflect on my work (no, not necessary on why I am not blogging). I think aloud to better form some thoughts. It’s working in understanding better. Who? Me.

And, frequently, I talk (to myself) about those complex and abstract concepts that float in my mind. Day and night.

Which ones? I can hear you say.

Come on, the usual ones: UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, Design Systems, management, leadership, Organization Design, parenting, sustainability, Systems Thinking, complexity, emergence, feedback loops, causal diagrams, unintended consequences, Donella Meadows, Peter Senge, Systems Change, social innovation, facilitation, teaching, training, learning, consciousness, the mind, space, writing, thinking, publishing, building an audience, writing the next article, and some other 357 things.

Writing the next article. Yes. Let’s talk about this for a moment.

I’ve been “writing the next article” for more than a month, now.

It’s the next episode of the “OsservAgro” saga. It was one of the most stimulating experiences I had in 2019. I have a mountain of notes and ideas about it. And I committed to myself to tell its story. My experience. How I did it. What I’ve learned. What we did together. What we could do.

But I wanted to be a historian. I wanted to tell exactly what happened, who said what, what I replied, what I thought, what I did, and what we achieved at the end.

That is not an excellent way to summarize an experience. I am afraid.
The more I recalled about the first workshop I facilitated, the more I wrote.
The more I wrote, the more details I recalled.
The more I wrote the more ideas, facilitation methods, tricks, reflections came to my mind.
And the more I wrote.
So, after a month, what was a 1’000 thousand-words essay is now 5’000.

And I feel exhausted. And nausea comes to me if I reopen the third draft. I don’t want to publish it. It’s too long. It’s not flowing. And, the worst thing, I feel it’s… incomplete.

That is exactly where I am now. In the meantime, I’ve collected (just about) 1 extra million ideas. More drafts, more articles waiting to be written. The idea of creating a “digital mind garden” came to my mind because now it seems to be fashionable.

I’ve been dreaming about creating my Memex, my Wiki, my Second Digital Brain, since 1982. Not happy with being stuck, I did it. Now.

I am doing everything now. So, I am doing nothing. This is the truth. This is where I am. And this is what I am publishing now.

Will this writing help me? I’ve written it in 17 minutes, in one shot. I was “in the flow”. I reread it only once. I made only a few corrections.

Will I get unstuck? Am I getting unstuck?

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Senior Experience Designer. 25 years designing, developing, writing, speaking, facilitating and teaching.

3 Comments

  1. A few thoughts on this open-hearted post which I so relate to because it’s just you, Massimo:

    1. storytelling is overrated;
    2. you, my friend, are good at conversations, so if notes are good at sparking conversations, that’s your fuel, your raw material, your gold nuggets;
    3. notes may be a knowledge sharing format that may evolve into a different format we’re still not aware of.

    You know I can’t refrain from proof-reading a post – that’s my autistic me -, but notes just raise questions or spark my curiosity. I won’t relate them to the author’s lack of clarity of storytelling skills. I would just take them as they are: specks of reality, hints at what is objective, raw materials to be explored and shaped into something different.

    What if notes are a new genre? A new spin on realistic fiction. Notes can start conversations, questions, research streams, pathways to discovery… that’s fine, trust your readers/peers/fellow researchers. Give us something that can inspire new trains of thought.

    Go for it and see what happens. I’ll follow in your footsteps because I trust you.

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  2. Massimo I met you via your last post on systemic thinking. Your post notification was a pleasant surprise. Because where you are stuck right now I could relate to it. I haven’t written in few years. Commenting on your post right now is a victory to me. I also felt that my writings were flowing. So I stopped writing completely. I gave myself many excuses. Only recently that I have started to miss me when I write. Reading your words felt like the echo of my own experience. Let me tell you the “ 17 minutes “ of writing is a gift and you did relate not only your story but mine too. Keep on writing to inspire.

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  3. Dear Massimo, for me this article is a definite step-forward.

    In this article I hear more of you, as a human, and your struggle is much more relatable for me than your previous, more academic writings and notes.

    In this light, I think you should proceed, at least for a while, in this direction. Sharing your personal process and discoveries without needing to be writing each time a manual on something.

    P.S.: If there is one element, that I see hardly mentioned or touched upon in your quest for expression, is “who are you writing for?” and “why?”.

    Unless this is an exercise in personal publishing with no other goals but making your ideas public, I would find it highly beneficial to insist on answering the “for whom I am writing” and “why I am writing” questions. These, do not appear to have been answered properly until now. Everything else, topics, themes, language and style should stem from the answer you will find there.

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